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SXSW Interactive 2013

Apollo 13: America's First Galactic Hackathon

It was April of 1970. Apollo 13 was going to be the third space mission to land on the moon. But on its way, nearly two hundred thousand miles from home and hours away from landing on the Moon, an explosion occurred on the spacecraft that changed history. Teams in Mission Control had to respond quickly to save the crew - and hopefully the mission. Apollo 13 was the world’s first galactic hackathon. Although some of the most brilliant minds in the country were working on these problems, with so many factors that could go wrong, many felt the crew would not be coming home. Some observers gave the crew a one in 10 chance of survival. The mission was not easy... but in a very short amount of time, and against all odds, collaborative teams of engineers, developers and subject matter experts invented the technology to return the crew safely to earth. Join us for a discussion about America’s first galactic hackathon and explore the leadership lessons from Apollo’s failed success.

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  1. What happened at America's first galactic hackathon?
  2. Why are hackathons effective at crowdsourcing innovation, accelerating progress, and attracting new talent?
  3. What are future applications of hackathons to solve humanities toughest challenges?
  4. Why is citizen science important?
  5. How can I get involved?


  • Nicholas Skytland, Program Manager, Open Government Initiative, NASA


Nicholas Skytland, Program Manager, Open Government Initiative, NASA

Meta Information:

  • Tags: space, maker
  • Event: Interactive
  • Format: Core Conversation
  • Track: DIY, Hacker and Maker
  • Level: Beginning
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